When Jennifer Laude was murdered in October, a U.S. Marine was charged in her death. Many media outlets fumbled as they covered the story, seeming confused about how to refer to the young Filipina, who was transgender. Bloomberg BusinessWeek identified her as “a 26-year-old man who identifies as a woman.” CNN, The Associated Press and Fox News, among others, published her birth name. Many news outlets paid special attention to the fact that Laude was transgender, and chose to call her death a “transgender death” or “transgender murder.”
November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when activists and supporters take time to remember the transgender victims of homicide of that year. Compared to other LGBT people, transgender women of color are disproportionately likely to be victims of violence, according to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. As journalists, we must be careful to afford victims of violence the dignity of being written about respectfully.
The New York Times’ Floyd Whaley treated Laude that way in this story, noting that she was transgender but letting her status as a transgender woman be the final note in a story, not the opening line. While Jim Gomez’s story for the Associated Press did include Laude’s birth name, it does treat her and her family with the respect and care you would expect from a story about a victim of a brutal murder. Gomez uses the correct name, respectful photos, appropriate pronouns and a sensitivity for the families.
Here are some general guidelines for writing about transgender people, as well as Transgender Day of Remembrance resources:
GLAAD’s media kit, including a history of Transgender Day of Remembrance:
Where to find Transgender Day of Remembrance events in your area: TDoR
Huffington Post’s Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014 Reporter’s List (which includes the names of transgender victims of homicide).
The Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Day of Remembrance resource page.